Being a mother is certainly not easy. As Allah describes in the Qur’an, “His mother carried him, [increasing her] in weakness upon weakness, and his weaning is in two years.” (31:14). These weaknesses are often referred to as pregnancy, birthing and nursing. But that is just the beginning.
Mothers are in the daily “trenches” of changing diapers, helping with homework, cooking dinner, disciplining and running between work, picking kids up from school, and soccer games. These daily acts of service to her family can encompass her so completely that she loses balance and perspective of herself. When a woman loses the deeper spiritual significance of motherhood, she may feel that the duty of a mother is to martyr herself for her family by putting everyone else’s needs ahead of her own. But carrying all the burdens and difficulties is not the path to being a good mother. In fact it only depletes a woman, and may even build resentment, making her think that her children and her family “owe” her, as payback for her “martyrdom.”
As the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us: “A person’s wealth shall not decrease with charity.” What better charity is there than the charity of a mother helping her family? However, as with all forms of giving, the reward is in the giving, not in what is paid back to us by those we give to. Indeed all forms of giving benefit the donor, when done right.
Motherhood is a journey that allows one to witness the growth of a child as well as instill growth in women by making them stronger and wiser. Allah blesses women with children and in turn mothers make a promise to Allah to nurture children into adulthood. Through the process of parenting children, one realizes that it is also about role modeling a balanced and healthy lifestyle to children. Being a mother is not being a martyr. Rather it is respecting the trust and responsibility of raising children as well as respecting yourself as a strong woman. Children will respect their mothers as women who service their families for the sake of Allah. The responsibility of motherhood makes a woman grow stronger physically, mentally and spiritually because she is tested in all areas. She learns to stretch herself to serve those around her with the ultimate purpose of pleasing Allah, while at the same time not losing herself. A mother should not simply become weaker through her giving, but stronger and more balanced.
Here are six ways mothers can find balance and stay focused in order to get through the tough days of parenting as well as enjoy the journey of motherhood:
1. “I will remind myself daily that my time with my children is precious.”
Childhood will end one day and my “baby” will soon be an adult. Our children are changing daily and maturing into an adult. Parenting is celebrating the everyday moments more than focusing on the milestones of our children’s life. Spending quality time with our children and making time to communicate and share with our children is what will be remembered. The mundane activities in our life are the ways we connect daily with our children, so we need to see them more as experiences of connection rather than activities we just need to get through and move on to the next.
2. “I will take care of myself.”
Physically, mentally and spiritually. By constantly giving attention to our children and husband, we many times forget to take care of ourselves or we put our needs at the bottom of the list. Some mothers don’t even put themselves on the list at all. But as mothers we can only give as much as we have, and if we do not refill our own tanks then we will have nothing left to give. Taking care of our bodies through exercise is vital for our physical health as well as boosting our overall mood and energy. Spending time exercising is not selfish, unnecessary or extra. It must be seen as a priority in order to be able to do our duty as a mother. Taking care of our mental and spiritual self is also vital because this is the area that is most challenged and drained from us when raising our children. The intention of our daily prayers is to help us refocus and slow down our hectic lives, especially as mothers. Since women are the “heart” of a household, we must find inner peace in order for the family to feel in balance. Finding and sustaining self-confidence and happiness will manifest to our children and husband.
3. “I am not a perfect mother.”
Many Muslim mothers have extremely idealistic views of parenting or high expectations of themselves as mothers. Our children do not need us to be perfect and they actually will easily forgive us when we acknowledge our mistakes and show our imperfections. We must accept that we will make mistakes which will be opportunities for us to grow and become smarter moms for future challenges. We need to forgive ourselves and release ourselves of the burden of striving for perfection. We need to eliminate the thinking that other moms have attained perfection and they do everything right. We can only do the best that we can with what we have and we should focus on the things that matter – our relationships with them. Dinners won’t always be amazing, the dishes won’t always be clean, and laundry will pile up, but when our kids become adults they won’t remember any of that; rather they will remember the time they spent and the conversations they had with us.
4. “I will make my marriage a priority.”
Children place a huge strain on a marriage, especially for mothers of young children. Many mothers focus entirely on the needs of their children and in the process neglect their relationship with their husband. Physical and emotional exhaustion leave women with little energy left to give to their husband and this attitude of “nothing left to give” can cause disconnection in the marriage. It is vital that we find balance in our marriage alongside parenting because not only is it good for our children to witness a healthy relationship, but it is also good for our mental health. The companionship of a spouse is one that will supersede our relationship with our children, especially as children grow older. We must maintain a loving connection to our spouse so that we can grow old together and be further bonded to one another after the children are grown and married. This means we can’t put our marriage “on hold,” rather we must maintain a bond of friendship and love through the trying times of parenthood. It is vital we spend time alone with our husband so that we can see each other through the lens of a spouse and not only as a caregiver to our children. Going on “date nights” and weekend outings as a couple is vital for the bond to be maintained and sustained.
5. “I will value my friendships.”
Connecting and sharing with other women helps us to realize the commonality in our struggles as mothers and women. Having sisters and girlfriends in our life makes us stronger because these relationships nurture us emotionally and help us manage the stress in our lives. Our girlfriends and sisters have a special place in our lives that even our husbands cannot fill or replace. Making time to connect with our friends will help us feel happier and recharged so that we are able to give to our children and husband. Talking to and going out with girlfriends is vital for mothers to boost their connection to other women. It will improve our moods and fill our tanks so that we can give to our children and better connect with our husbands.
6. “I will prioritize family dinners.”
Eating together as a family is a daily activity of bonding. Routines in children’s lives can foster a deep sense of security. Creating traditions such as eating together is meaningful to our daily lives because it is a time the family comes together to share their day and connect with one another. Research has shown children who regularly have dinner with their families are more likely to do better and make good choices with regard to friends, drugs and sex. Bringing everyone together daily will create a more communicative family dynamic, and the tradition of food, conversations and joy will be the memories that everyone will cherish.